Kangaroo Island artist Lara Tilbrook message to "Slow Down" after the fires

KI WORKS: Kangaroo Island artist Lara Tilbrook's works titled
KI WORKS: Kangaroo Island artist Lara Tilbrook's works titled "A Sign" and "Mother and child" in the "HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe" at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery. Photo supplied

Kangaroo Island artist Lara Tilbrook has a message for us all - slow down after the fires and repair the trauma.

She is among five SA artists featured in the exhibition "HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe" on now at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, in partnership with Country Arts SA.

The exhibition that runs until April 10 brings together five diverse contemporary artists with strong connections to regional South Australia, whose practices draw attention to our inherent interconnectedness with the natural world and the complexities of humankind's influences on our environments.

The exhibition title presents an ultimatum: care for our planet or face environmental collapse. This proposition, drawn from the artists' practices and their new works, presents both a sense of urgency and the potential of hope.

These newly commissioned works address issues about systematic (mis)management of natural resources, endemic loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, migration policies, catastrophic fire events and ongoing colonialism.

They call for a collective movement grounded in deep listening and care, to counteract the chaos of disconnection and move toward generating a sustainable future for us all.

They also signal hope in the possibilities of more viable and balanced ways of being and belonging.

Lara said her two works were very much about responding to the wildfires on Kangaroo Island with additional messaging and greater reach.

Her works are:

  • Lara Tilbrook, A sign, 2021, Xanthorrhoea semiplana seed pods, Onkaparinga woollen blanket, treated forestry pine, cotton, polyester, 293 x 210 x 18 cm.
  • Lara Tilbrook, Mother and child, 2021, Kangaroo Island short-beaked echidna pelts, wool, timber, metal tacks, 28 x 60 x 60 cm.

"Monotonously securing Yacca pods through sewing, created space to honour, observe, connect. Fresh air away from the thick heavy smoke. Time to Slow Down, repair the trauma by planting life force into a cleared landscape. A sign, a way to campaign, instill hope and generate a voice.

"Slow Down the wildfires and hazard reduction burning. Violent western interventions decimating critical habitat, murdering wildlife and driving species to mass extinction. Slow Down our government's neglectfully derelict handling of healthy ecosystems. Cut all the bureaucratic bullshit, inadequate legislation, corrupt policies and red tape. Quit the green-wash and band-aid conservation.

"Slow Down to appreciate, unite respect and hear the truth. Listen to ancient knowledge. Journey slowly forward with genuine love and sustainable care."

"HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe" is on at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery until April 10, 2022. Photo supplied

"HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe" is on at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery until April 10, 2022. Photo supplied

Pointing to catastrophe but not without hope, the exhibition's other artists are Chris De Rosa of Port Elliot, Ellen Trevorrow of Meningie/Coorong, Clancy Warner of Sellicks Beach and Laura Wills of Adelaide.

The inaugural exhibition, HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe, is the outcome of the Country Arts SA SPUR: Regional Curatorial Mentorship initiative.

The initiative has commissioned all new works by the five artists, while facilitating two mentees, Wes Maselli based in Hayborough and Michelle Dohnt based in Murray Bridge to participate in the development of an exhibition through the process of direct curatorial engagement.

Lauren Mustillo, Visual Arts Manager, Country Arts SA said the artworks presented in HARBINGERS were incredibly ambitious, both technically and conceptually.

"The diversity of materials is impressive, featuring large-scale sculpture, installation, weaving, textiles, illustration and assemblage," Lauren said.

"The artists have been fearless in their approach, tackling critical and compelling issues relating the environment which highlight both the need for urgent action and the potential of hope.

"Being privy to this creative process is a unique and exciting prospect for any arts professional, and especially those in the emerging and early stages of their careers.

"Wes and Michelle have taken up the opportunity with gusto and been invaluable to the development of the exhibition.

"We know this experience will stand them in good stead for their careers in the arts moving forward."

Fulvia Mantelli, Director, Murray Bridge Regional Gallery + Team Leader Arts Development, Rural City of Murray Bridge said there was a strong and rich relationship between the two organisations.

"At its core this great partnership has a shared vision to promote and nurture regional South Australian visual art practices, as well as bring nationally recognised, conceptually and culturally diverse arts experiences to regional communities," Fulvia said.

As arts organisations we are well-placed to transform the way the arts are engaged with in regional South Australia.

"SPUR is one such model that is designed to inspire a different way of making and collaborating into the future."

Country Arts SA Chief Executive Anthony Peluso said supporting regional artists was not only of benefit to the artist but to Australia's national spirit.

"At Country Arts SA we are excited to support artists to create new work, recognising them as valued contributors to our nation's cultural voice. HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe, the product of the SPUR: Regional Curatorial Mentorship is a timely exhibition that connects us with our environment and shows us that art is a great conduit for shining a light on what is vital and important in our world today," ," he said.

Congratulations to the mentors and artists on this beautiful, intriguing and vital exhibition."

Mentees Michelle and Wes said the experience was an irreplaceable opportunity in their career development.

"The SPUR Project Management Mentorship has been a wonderful opportunity to further develop and expand my learning," Michelle said.

"As I continue to work towards my personal goals and career aspirations of taking on a larger role in exhibitions, the opportunity to work closely with the curators and artists while gaining hands-on experience in visual arts exhibition development has been a tremendous and invaluable learning experience,"

Mentee Wes Maselli added: "It was a privilege to be selected as the inaugural SPUR curatorial mentee, because it is important to have the confidence and encouragement of the arts community, or is it industry?

"The lines are blurred, but I never felt that I was in the deep end. On the contrary, it was a supported space, with room to move and explore ideas with Fulvia, Lauren and the artists.

"I'm really beginning to see how curation is an art in itself, and because you are collaborating with multiple artists with multiple visions, there are some really stimulating feedback loops."

"HARBINGERS: Care or Catastrophe" is on at Murray Bridge Regional Gallery until April 10, 2022.